Napoli got their first win in the newly-named Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Sunday, beating Sampdoria 2-1 to move third in Serie A behind Inter Milan, who fought back to see off Cagliari 3-1.
Napoli needed to come from behind in the stadium renamed a week ago following the death of club legend Maradona last month.
Maradona led the club to their only league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989.
The match in Naples was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of Italy’s 1982 World Cup winner Paolo Rossi, who died on Wednesday, aged 64.
Jakub Jankto put Sampdoria ahead in the 20th minute, but Hirving Lozano came off the bench in the second half to spark a Napoli revival.
Lozano got his head to a Dries Mertens cross seven minutes after the break with the Mexican international then crossing for Andrea Petagna to nod in the winner with 22 minutes remaining.
Inter Milan bounced back after their Champions League exit, reclaiming second place and moving two points behind leaders AC Milan, who host Parma later on Sunday.
Antonio Conte’s Inter were trailing with a quarter of an hour to go in Sardinia, after Riccardo Sottil put the hosts ahead before the break and a series of fine saves from home goalkeeper Alessio Cragno.
Former Cagliari player Nicolo Barella volleyed in the equaliser after 77 minutes with Danilo D’Ambrosio coming off the bench to immediately nod in a second with six minutes to go.
Romelu Lukaku added a third deep into injury time as Inter returned to second spot two points behind leaders AC Milan who host Parma later on Sunday with champions Juventus at Genoa.
“I’m really happy with their reaction because the lads still had the Shakhtar games on their minds,” said Conte.
“We went a goal down despite a great first-half performance and numerous chances created.
“(Cagliari goalie) Cragno was their best player on the pitch, but the lads believed right up to the end and showed they wanted to win at all costs.”
Roma thump Bologna
Inter’s hopes in Europe are over after finishing bottom of their Champions League group midweek after a goalless draw with Shakhtar Donetsk, having also failed to score in a stalemate in Ukraine.
Conte’s side are now focusing on claiming a first league title since 2010, and preventing Juventus from winning a 10th consecutive ‘Scudetto’.
Roma got back to winning ways with an emphatic 5-1 victory at Bologna to move fifth, one point ahead of Juventus.
All six goals came in the first half at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.
Bologna’s Andrea Poli turned into his own net after five minutes before Edin Dzeko added a second to give the hosts a two-goal advantage after 10 minutes.
The Bosnian became the third-highest scorer in Roma’s history with his 111th club goal.
Lorenzo Pellegrini, Jordan Veretout and Henrikh Mkhitaryan added three more before the break, with a Bryan Cristante own goal putting Bologna on the scoresheet.
In Bergamo, Atalanta eased past Fiorentina 3-0, days after qualifying for the Champions League last-16.
Robin Gosens opened the scoring just before half-time when he finished off a Duvan Zapata cross.
A Ruslan Malinovskyi free-kick nine minutes after the break, and a Rafael Toloi header in the 63rd minute secured all three points for the northerners who are in the eighth position with a game in hand.
Fiorentina are in 17th position after their sixth league match in a row without a win.
The statement hailed Maradona as “the greatest footballer of all time who, with his immense talent and magic, honoured the Naples jersey for seven years, offering it two Italian league titles and other prestigious trophies, and receiving, in exchange, the eternal and unconditional love of the entire city”.
Napoli’s next home game will be next Thursday in the Europa League against Real Sociedad.
Napoli have already paid homage to Maradona, who played for the club from 1984 to 1991, in two home games.
The players wore his number ten for a minute’s silence in a Europa League game the day after Maradona’s death. In Serie A on Sunday gainst Roma the team played in a jersey reminiscent of the Argentine colours, designed as a tribute to Maradona.
On Wednesday, legendary Argentine footballer, Diego Armando Maradona died from a cardiac arrest, aged 60, throwing the sporting world into one of its saddest moments in recent times.
The 1986 World Cup winner’s death saw the outpouring of condolences from across the globe, adding further buzz to a week which started with FIFA’s suspension of CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad.
This edition of First Eleven, a recap of the top 11 sports stories from the world, also features action from the UEFA Champions League, the Europa League and stories from the domestic front.
1. Maradona: Football World Grieves, Bids Farewell To Argentine Legend
Millions of fans in Argentina and around the world on Thursday bided farewell to football great, Diego Maradona, the player who helped his country to a triumph in the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
The former Napoli star who died on Wednesday was buried on the outskirts of Argentine capital, Buenos Aires after a farewell that was chaotic at times. In the ceremony attended by family and close friends in the leafy surrounds of the Bella Vista cemetery, the peaceful event contrasted sharply with the sometimes raucous scenes of the World Cup winner’s send-off in Buenos Aires.
Thousands of people had lined up from early Thursday morning to file past the star’s coffin, draped in the Argentine flag and his iconic No.10 jersey, at the presidential palace to pay their last respect to the player who commanded a cult following in the South American nation. Tributes are still pouring in from footballers, clubs, associations and coaches, a development that could continue for weeks.
2. FIFA Hammer Lands On CAF President Ahmad Ahmad
The week had begun on a rather surprising note as FIFA’s hammer landed on Ahmad Ahmad, the President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). Football governing body, FIFA had on Monday suspended Ahmad, from Madagascar, for five years having “breached his duty of loyalty, offered gifts and other benefits, mismanaged funds and abused his position as the CAF President.”
Ahmad who has been the president of the football body since March 2017 was equally fined 200,000 Swiss francs ($220,000) by FIFA for the misdeeds, which related to “the organisation and financing of an Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca” and his involvement in CAF’s dealings with a sports equipment company.
The 60-year-old, has, however, launched an appeal against his suspension, citing unfairness in FIFA’s decision.
3. FIFA Awards 2020: Lewandowski, Messi, Ronaldo Lead Shortlist
Polish striker, Roberto Lewandowski was shortlisted alongside Argentine star, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo for the 2020 FIFA Awards, to cap off an interesting year in which he won the quadruple with Bayern Munich.
The European Player of the Year is also joined on the list that includes Senegal’s Sadio Mane, Egyptian Mohamed Salah and Dutchman Virgil van Dijk by former teammate and Spanish international, Thiago Alacantra.
Paris Saint-Germain duo of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid defender, Sergio Ramos are the other players in the ten-man shortlist. Marcelo Bielsa, who led Leeds into the English Premier League, is in the shortlist for the men’s coach award, which features Bayern’s Hans-Dieter Flick, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui and Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane.
4. Pope Francis Receives NBA Players
Pope Francis believes sports can be a great tool to fight social and economic injustice following his meeting, on Monday, with five NBA players.
“Looking at the problems in society and especially those of social justice, sport can be a good means of resolving them,” Pope Francis said during the event which was held at the Vatican. “We should always remember this because your message is the goodwill of sports but also working together as a team, the work as a community and may this be the seed of beauty and of a shared development towards justice.”
The players – Jonathan Isaac, Sterling Brown, Marco Belinelli, Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver – who spoke about their efforts at tackling inequalities in their communities described the meeting as “an incredible experience.” During last season’s NBA, players took a knee before matches and wore the Black Lives Matter slogan on jerseys, protesting the killing of a black man, George Flyod by a police officer in the US.
5. Champions League: Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus, Sevilla Enter Last 16
Spanish giants, Barcelona and North London side, Chelsea were among the first teams to reach the last 16 of this term’s Champions League, joining Juventus and Sevilla in claiming an early spot in the knockout phase of Europe’s elite club competition.
The Blaugrana shipped for goals past Dynamo Kiev away from home to move a step closer to securing their first Champions League title since 2015. Manchester City have also made it to the round of 16.
6. Pepe Redeems Self As Arsenal, Roma, Others Make Europa League Knockout Phase
Nicolas Pepe netted as Arsenal qualified for the Europa League round of 32 with the Gunners beating Molde 3-0. The Ivorian scored just after half-time with a cool close-range finish to ensure the North London side moved to the next stage of the competition which they got to the final two seasons ago.
Hoffenheim, Leicester and Roma complete the first four teams through to the UEFA Europa League next round.
7. COVID-19: A Green Light For Fans’ Return
Football fans in English had reasons to smile over the week as clubs within the tier two areas can now allow spectators in sports arenas. Although the Premier League is yet to confirm matches to be played over the weekend of December 5 and 6, clubs can welcome up to 2,000 fans.
During that weekend, Brighton will be at home against Southampton, Chelsea welcome Leeds, Premier League holders Liverpool host Wolves at the Anfield just as Manchester United travel to the London Stadium for a date with West Ham.
The games would be the first batch of top-flight matches to be attended by fans since the outbreak of COVID-19 that shut spectators out of stadiums in March. While government had planned to let supporters back into sports venues in reduced numbers from October, the move was shelved following a spike in the coronavirus infection.
8. 2020 National Sports Festival Moved To January 2020
The National Sports Festival (NSF) earlier billed for Benin from Dec. 3 to Dec.13 has been postponed to Jan.3 to Jan.17, 2021.
According to the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development, the decision to move the games was arrived at during a virtual meeting with stakeholders on Thursday in Abuja.
Tagged Edo 2020, the games was earlier scheduled to take place in March, but was postponed to December due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
9. Coleman Appeals Ban For Breaching Anti-Doping Rules
World 100m champion, Christian Coleman has appealed the two-year ban handed to him by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU). Coleman wants the AIU to set aside that decision “and that the sanction be eliminated, or in the alternative, reduced.”
AIU in October banned the American sprinter saying he “committed an ADRV in relation to an alleged filing failure and missed tests.” He was provisionally suspended for three ‘whereabouts failures’ in June with the World Athletics’ Disciplinary Tribunal upholding the charge, backdating it to May 14, 2020.
If the ban is upheld, Coleman would miss next year’s Olympic Games in Japan, an event he is touted to win the 100m gold.
10. 2021 FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers Tips Off
Yesterday, Tunisia 🇹🇳, Kenya 🇰🇪, Senegal 🇸🇳 and Rwanda 🇷🇼 got their training session, in preparation for their upcoming games.
After months of delay occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket qualifiers tipped off on Wednesday.
Three groups – made up of 12 teams – are in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. These are teams in Group A, B and D while Group E will battle it out in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Guinea – in Group C – had played during the February window in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The top three sides in all groups will book a ticket to the FIBA AfroBasket 2021. That is not, however, the case in Group D which has Rwanda.
“In case, Rwanda is ranked first, second or third in this group, then the three highest-placed teams will make it to the final tournament from Group D,” FIBA explained in a statement on its website.
“This also means that the best fourth-placed team in all the five groups, based on the classification rules of the Official Basketball Rules, shall obtain the last spot for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021, making a total of 16 teams. However, should Rwanda finish in the fourth position, all Group D teams will qualify for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021.”
11. United Forward Rashford Makes Football Black List
England and Manchester United striker, Marcus Rashford has made the Football Black List, an initiative which celebrates the most influential black people in British football.
The 23-year-old’s campaign, raising awareness of child poverty in the UK and convincing the government to give children school meals, earned him a place in the list.
Aston Villa and England defender, Tyrone Mings; Watford striker, Troy Deeney and Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast forward, Wilfried Zaha were some of those who made the Football Black List. It was founded in 2008 by sports journalists Leon Mann and Rodney Hinds, and spotlights positive influencers from the black community in sport.
Super Eagles forward, Victor Osimhen is confident of equalling Rashidi Yekini’s goal record for the West African side even though he admits it is an arduous task.
“I’ve always said it for me to fill in the shoes of a legend, the late Rashidi Yekini, is kind of heavy for me but I think I’m on the right path towards this direction,” Osimhen who features for the Italian side, Napoli, said on Thursday during a press conference ahead of Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone.
“If I’m injury free I can achieve this feat but it’s never going to be easy and of course with the confidence, the coach has in me and the fans also supporting me, I think it’s achievable.”
Although he admitted equalling Yekini’s record is something he is looking forward to, doing well in his club side and with the national team are more important.
“For now I want to keep on helping the team, keep on doing well with my club and I’m really looking forward to achieving this feat but it’s never going to be easy,” the FIFA U-17 World Cup record goalscorer added.
Yekini who played 58 games for the 1994 African champions, netted 37 goals and remains Nigeria’s highest goalscorer.
On the other hand, Osimhen has four goals to show for his nine appearances for Nigeria since he debuted for the team in 2017 against Togo.
Although Osimhen was part of the Eagles team that won a bronze medal at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), he only managed one game – the third-place match – against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.
Napoli forward, Victor Osimhen, has been ruled out of the Super Eagles team for the friendly games against Tunisia and Algeria.
“Victor Osimhen has been excused from SuperEagles’ games against Algeria and Tunisia,” the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) tweeted on its handle, Sunday morning as Napoli imposes further travel restrictions amid the second wave of COVID-19. “His replacement is Paul Onuachu. #Team9jaStrong #SoarSuperEagles.”
The three-time African champions are billed to take on Algeria and Tunisia on October 9 and 13 respectively but new travel restrictions by the club mean the former U-17 World Cup winner would not be available for the games.
On Saturday, Napoli said they had tested all their players for COVID-19 but only Macedonian midfielder, Elif Elmas, was confirmed to have contracted the virus.
The club also said their players and staff were in isolation and would not be travelling for the international break.
Local authorities had told the Napoli team it was unsafe to travel and has restricted them from going outside Turin region for their league tie at the Allianz Arena on Sunday.
Osimhen joined Napoli in July for an undisclosed fee believed to be over $96 million (81.3m Euros), making the forward one of the most expensive African player of all time.
“Welcome to Napoli, Victor, ” the club said on their Twitter handle while confirming the arrival of the Nigerian from French side, Lille.
Osimhen’s move to the Gli Azzurri trumps the prize Arsenal paid for Ivory Coast forward, Nicolas Pepe last year.
Last term, the former Charleroi (from where he moved to France) man scored 18 goals in all games for Lille and has been linked with a move to Naples in recent times.
His stellar showing for the French side saw him winning the Lille Player of the Season just as he made it to Ligue 1’s team for the 2019/2020 campaign.
In a highly-anticipated first clash between two former stars of Italy and AC Milan now chasing coaching glory, Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli test their ‘Scudetto’ ambitions at Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus on Sunday.
Both won the 2006 World Cup for Italy and spent a decade as AC Milan teammates, winning two Serie A titles and two Champions League crowns together.
It is a clash which Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte can’t wait to see.
“Juve v Napoli? I’ll enjoy watching it,” said Conte, who coached Pirlo as a player to the first three of Juventus’s current run of nine Serie A titles.
“Napoli are underestimated a lot,” continued Conte.
“They are an excellent team, they are among the favourites for the Scudetto.
“They have a staff and a very good coach who will make life difficult for everyone.”
Gattuso begins his second season on the Napoli bench having taken over from Carlo Ancelotti last December. The club finished seventh but qualified for the Europa League after winning the Italian Cup, their first trophy in six years.
Former Glasgow Rangers defensive midfielder Gattuso has been coaching since he hung up his boots in 2013, with the bulk of his footballing career spent at AC Milan.
He had stints at Sion, Palermo, Crete and Pisa before returning to Milan where he trained the youth team before coaching the first-team for 18 months.
The 42-year-old left Milan after the team missed the Champions League by just one point.
By contrast, Pirlo, 41, had no coaching experience before taking over from Maurizio Sarri, receiving his coaching diploma days before the season kicked off.
“Well he’s stuck now! That’s the job,” quipped Gattuso on hearing Pirlo’s appointment.
“He’s lucky to be starting at Juventus, but this profession is one where a great playing career is not enough. You have to study, to work hard, and you don’t get much sleep.”
– Coronavirus tests –
This season Gattuso has the ambitious task of winning a first Serie A title since the days of Napoli legend Diego Maradona in 1990.
Pirlo is counting on extending Juventus’s winning streak to 10 consecutive Serie A titles.
Napoli are top of the Italian league table after two games with a win over Parma, and a 6-0 hammering of Genoa last time out.
Pirlo’s Juventus is a team “under construction”. They were held 2-2 by Roma last weekend.
As Napoli sit equal on maximum points with Inter Milan, Atalanta, Hellas Verona and AC Milan, Juve have four points.
Napoli are awaiting the results of a second round of coronavirus tests as last week’s opponents Genoa had 16 positive tests this week, including 12 players.
Genoa’s game against Torino on Saturday has been postponed.
A first round of swabs at Napoli came back negative, with the results of the second series of tests expected on Friday.
Inter, who have scored nine goals in their first two matches, take on a Lazio hurting after their 4-1 defeat to Atalanta in the Stadio Olimpico.
“Inter have been considered an outsider for many years, now we have acquired credibility,” said Conte of last season’s runenrs-up.
High-scoring Atalanta next host Cagliari with Hellas Verona looking for a third consecutive win at Parma.
Roma head for Udinese looking for their first win, with the north-easterners reeling after losing to promoted La Spezia, who next challenge AC Milan.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Fiorentina v Sampdoria (1845)
Sassuolo v Crotone (1300), Udinese v Roma (1845)
Postponed: Genoa v Torino
Atalanta v Cagliari (1030), Benevento v Bologna, Lazio v Inter Milan, Parma v Verona (all 1300), AC Milan v Spezia (1600), Juventus v Napoli (1845)
Everton secured the first of an expected trio of midfield signings on Saturday with the arrival of Brazilian international Allan on a three-year deal from Napoli for a reported £22 million ($29 million).
The 29-year-old is reunited with Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti, with whom he worked at the Serie A club.
Everton are also close to reuniting Ancelotti with Colombian star James Rodriguez for a third time after spells together at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, while a fee has reportedly been agreed with Watford for Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Allan, who made more than 200 appearances in five years at Napoli, admitted he could not turn down the opportunity to work with Ancelotti again.
“It is a club with a rich history in the Premier League, has real ambition and then there is Professor Ancelotti. He has done everything possible to bring me here,” Allan told Everton TV.
“It is the size of the club and the name of the coach which means you don’t think twice about coming to Everton.
“I hope, like I have done in my entire career, I contribute with my performances together with my team-mates and that I put in some great games, great performances and win important things.”
Lionel Messi scored a brilliant solo goal as Barcelona saw off Napoli on Saturday but they are likely to need something even more special from their captain to beat Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.
Messi’s weaving run and finish came between an early Clement Lenglet header and a Luis Suarez penalty, also won by Messi, as Barca stormed into a 3-0 lead in the first half at Camp Nou.
But Lorenzo Insigne gave Napoli hope just before the interval and an unconvincing second period from Barcelona left them hanging on for a 3-1 win on the night, 4-2 on aggregate.
“A second goal would have given them a feeling of euphoria that can hurt you,” said Barca coach Quique Setien.
“It’s normal to get a little nervous.”
In winning the penalty, Messi took a heavy kick from Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and needed treatment.
“It was a heavy knock,” said Setien. “It will have to be treated but I don’t think there is a problem.”
After finishing five points behind Real Madrid in La Liga, Barca resumed in the Champions League with doubts hanging over the form of the team and the future of their coach.
Setien said on Friday he had not considered resigning but failure in Europe, after a turbulent domestic campaign, would likely take the decision out of his hands.
Victory against Napoli eases the pressure but the performance will not inspire confidence, even with Messi seemingly rejuvenated after three weeks rest.
Napoli, whose own league season only finished last weekend, should have had the advantage of rhythm but a disastrous opening half an hour left them with too much to do.
Koulibaly, linked with a move to several elite European clubs this summer, endured a particularly disappointing night.
Yet Barcelona will have to improve significantly to match Bayern, who advanced after putting seven past Chelsea over two legs and are arguably favourites to win the tournament.
“It’s going to be very complicated,” admitted Setien ahead of the quarter-final on Friday.
Messi now has four goals in his last three games and in a one-off match in Lisbon, the Argentinian is capable of anything.
But Bayern have their own trump card in Robert Lewandowski and a more complete team that makes them heavy favourites to reach the semis.
Napoli began an eventful first half by hitting the post as Dries Mertens went close with a miskicked half-volley, only for Lenglet to head in for Barca from Ivan Rakitic’s corner after nine minutes.
Messi made it two after a barnstorming run in which he fell to the ground only to dart back up and bundle his way through three Napoli defenders before curling into the far corner.
He thought he had another after finishing off a delightful pass from the outside of Frenkie de Jong’s right foot but it was ruled out, the ball feathering Messi’s arm as he controlled it.
But he could not be surpressed for long, harrying the unsuspecting Koulibaly in the penalty area and poking the ball away from his opponent, who was already swinging to clear and succeeded only in bringing Messi down.
Messi needed treatment and deferred the penalty to Suarez, who drove into the top corner but Napoli made it 3-1 deep in first half stoppage time, Insigne scoring from the spot after Rakitic barged into Mertens.
Napoli needed two more to progress and enjoyed their best spell early in the second period.
They might have tested Barcelona’s nerves if Arkadiusz Milik’s header 10 minutes from the end had stood while Hirving Lozano’s late header hit the foot of the post.